Business Process Management in India

Friday, July 30, 2004

Stretching Business Process Management the CSC way

Business Process Management is a broad topic and every time I listen to a vendor it gets stretched and pulled a little more in some unique way. A visit to CSC to hear about their e4 Architecture stretched it again in ways that interested me.

The e4 Architecture defines what are the required parts of a BPM solution, then populates some of this with suggested technology from a variety of vendors, although CSC will incorporate existing BPM technology from their outsourced clients' environment. The core of the CSC solution is the Business Process Engine based on a solution from Intalio.

The first stretch was to see a business process diagram that included swim lanes, defining the different roles, or departments, involved in the process. This is not a new diagramming technique but surprisingly I have not seen it as a standard, or even discussed, option in other vendors' solutions. I have developed business process definitions (specifically related to internal IT business processes) and have seen the power of the swim lane paradigm; when I developed them it would have been great if I could have automated the solution directly from the diagram rather than having to develop a set of manual processes that were difficult to enforce.

The next stretch was more profound and started with a disagreement on nomenclature. Howard Smith, from CSC, said that they would consider a medical record as a process and in fact any other complex record as a process. I dislike the extension of the use of the word 'process' that describes an action to cover a record which holds a state. This is similar to the American habit of verbalising nouns. However the discussion did highlight the limitations of much BPM thinking. Business Processes are event centric, some event occurs, it triggers a business process, the process completes and that is that. A business process has a single start activity and a single end activity. Whereas if you look at business processes from a record centric point of view more complex processes and interactions emerge. For those who like to understand the theory behind this should investigate pi-calculus.

The final stretch is that business process management needs to be managed, in particular their needs to be a way of measuring the maturity of use of business process management in an enterprise. Having measurements of this type will enable a roadmap to be developed to move the enterprise up the maturity ladder. CSC is developing such a maturity ladder and the methodology to move enterprise up the ladder.

CSC's prime business is IT outsourcing so the e4 architecture and the consulting that goes with it is available to their outsourced clients. One wonders if they might, should, expand this service to a wider audience.


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